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61 AJAX Questions and Answers:

1 :: What is AJAX?

AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) is a newly coined term for two powerful browser features that have been around for years, but were overlooked by many web developers until recently when applications such as Gmail, Google Suggest, and Google Maps hit the streets.

AJAX stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML.

Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, or Ajax (pronounced "Aye-Jacks"), is a web development technique for creating interactive web applications using a combination of: XHTML (or HTML) and CSS for marking up and styling information. (XML is commonly used, although any format will work, including preformatted HTML, plain text, JSON and even EBML).

The Document Object Model manipulated through JavaScript to dynamically display and interact with the information presented
The XMLHttpRequest object to exchange data asynchronously with the web server. In some Ajax frameworks and in some situations, an IFrame object is used instead of the XMLHttpRequest object to exchange data with the web server. Like DHTML, LAMP, or SPA, Ajax is not a technology in itself, but a term that refers to the use of a group of technologies together. In fact, derivative/composite technologies based substantially upon Ajax, such as AFLAX, are already appearing.
Ajax applications are mostly executed on the user's computer; they can perform a number of tasks without their performance being limited by the network.

2 :: Whats with the -alpha in the install instructions?

HTML_AJAX hasn't had a stable release yet and the pear installer doesn't install non stable packages by default unless you specify a version.

3 :: When do I use a synchronous versus a asynchronous request?

Good question. They don't call it AJAX for nothing! A synchronous request would block in page event processing and I don't see many use cases where a synchronous request is preferable.

4 :: When should I use an Java applet instead of AJAX?

Applets provide a rich experience on the client side and there are many things they can do that an AJAX application cannot do, such as custom data streaming, graphic manipulation, threading, and advanced GUIs. While DHTML with the use of AJAX has been able to push the boundaries on what you can do on the client, there are some things that it just cannot do. The reason AJAX is so popular is that it only requires functionality built into the browser (namely DHTML and AJAX capabilities). The user does not need to download and/or configure plugins. It is easy to incrementally update functionality and know that that functionality will readily available, and there are not any complicated deployment issues. That said, AJAX-based functionality does need to take browser differences into consideration. This is why we recommend using a JavaScript library such as Dojo which abstracts browser differences. So the "bottom line" is: If you are creating advanced UIs where you need more advanced features on the client where you want UI accuracy down to the pixel, to do complex computations on the client, use specialized networking techniques, and where you know that the applet plugin is available for your target audience, applets are the way to go. AJAX/DHTML works well for applications where you know the users are using the latest generation of browsers, where DHTML/AJAX "good enough" for you, and where your developers have JavaScript/DHTML/AJAX skills.

5 :: When will HTML_AJAX have a stable release?

Once all the major features are complete and the API has been tested, the roadmap gives an idea of whats left to be done.

6 :: Where can I find examples of AJAX?

While components of AJAX have been around for some time (for instance, 1999 for XMLHttpRequest), it really didn't become that popular until Google took.

But Global Guide Line guide all of its viewers to learn AJAX from absolute beginner to advance level...

7 :: Where should I start?

Assuming the framework you are using does not suffice your use cases and you would like to develop your own AJAX components or functionality I suggest you start with the article Asynchronous JavaScript Technology and XML (AJAX) With Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition.
If you would like to see a very basic example that includes source code you can check out the tech tip Using AJAX with Java Technology. For a more complete list of AJAX resources the Blueprints AJAX Home page.
Next, I would recommend spending some time investigating AJAX libraries and frameworks. If you choose to write your own AJAX clients-side script you are much better off not re-inventing the wheel.
AJAX in Action by Dave Crane and Eric Pascarello with Darren James is good resource. This book is helpful for the Java developer in that in contains an appendix for learning JavaScript for the Java developer.

8 :: Who’s Using Ajax?

Google is making a huge investment in developing the Ajax approach. All of the major products Google has introduced over the last year — Orkut, Gmail, the latest beta version of Google Groups, Google Suggest, and Google Maps — are Ajax applications. (For more on the technical nuts and bolts of these Ajax implementations, check out these excellent analyses of Gmail, Google Suggest, and Google Maps.) Others are following suit: many of the features that people love in Flickr depend on Ajax, and Amazon’s search engine applies similar techniques.
These projects demonstrate that Ajax is not only technically sound, but also practical for real-world applications. This isn’t another technology that only works in a laboratory. And Ajax applications can be any size, from the very simple, single-function Google Suggest to the very complex and sophisticated Google Maps.
At Adaptive Path, we’ve been doing our own work with Ajax over the last several months, and we’re realizing we’ve only scratched the surface of the rich interaction and responsiveness that Ajax applications can provide. Ajax is an important development for Web applications, and its importance is only going to grow. And because there are so many developers out there who already know how to use these technologies, we expect to see many more organizations following Google’s lead in reaping the competitive advantage Ajax provides.
Moving Forward

9 :: Why does HTML_AJAX hang on some server installs?

If you run into an HTML_AJAX problem only on some servers, chances are your running into a problem with output compression. If the output compression is handled in the PHP config we detect that and do the right thing, but if its done from an apache extension we have no way of knowing its going to compress the body. Some times setting HTML_AJAX::sendContentLength to false fixes the problem, but in other cases you'll need to disabled the extension for the AJAX pages.

I've also seen problems caused by debugging extensions like XDebug, disabling the extension on the server page usually fixes that. Questions dealing with Using HTML_AJAX, and general JavaScript development

10 :: Will HTML_AJAX integrate with other Javascript AJAX libraries such as scriptaculous? How would this integration look like?

HTML_AJAX doesn't have specific plans to integrate with other JavaScript libraries. Part of this is because external dependencies make for a more complicated installation process. It might make sense to offer some optional dependencies on a library like scriptaculous automatically using its visual effects for the loading box or something, but there isn't a lot to gain from making default visuals like that flashier since they are designed to be easily replaceable.

Most integration would take place in higher level components. Its unclear whether higher level components like that should be part of HTML_AJAX delivered through PEAR or if they should just be supported by HTML_AJAX and made available from or some other site. If your interested in building widgets or components based on HTML_AJAX please let me know.

HTML_AJAX does however offer the ability to use its library loading mechanism with any JavaScript library. I use scriptaculous in conjunction with HTML_AJAX and I load both libraries through the server.
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